A French Catholic missionary, Bishop Pigneau de Behaine, had raised a mercenary force to help Nguyen Anh seize the Vietnamese throne. The bishop hoped the new emperor would provide France with trading and missionary privileges, but Nguyen Anh was suspicious of French influence. Under his rule and that of his successors, any resistance to the absolute power of the government was dealt with harshly. The Nguyen regime persecuted religious followers, including Christians, Buddhists, Daoists (Taoists), and followers of traditional beliefs. The persecution of French Christian missionaries and their Vietnamese converts, in particular, received the attention of French Catholics. Religious groups in France demanded retaliatory action from the government in Paris. When commercial and military interests also urged a decisive move to protect French interests in Southeast Asia, the French emperor Napoleon III approved the launching of a naval expedition to punish the Vietnamese and force the court to accept a French presence in the country.
The first attack at Da Nang in 1858 failed to achieve its objectives. A second attack farther south the following year was more successful, however, and in 1862 Emperor Tu Duc agreed to cede several provinces in the Mekong Delta to France as the colony of Cochin China. In the 1880s the French resumed their advance, launching an attack on the Red River Delta on the pretext of protecting French citizens there. After severe defeats, the Vietnamese court accepted French rule over the remaining territory of Vietnam, which was divided into two protectorates—Tonkin in the Red River Delta and Annam along the central coast. In 1887, after France had established a third protectorate over Cambodia, it consolidated the administration of its Southeast Asian territories, creating the Indochinese Union, or French Indochina. Laos was incorporated into the union in 1893. "Vietnam" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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